Thursday, December 06, 2007
The End of Term
It seems amazing, but my first term as Development Director at Ridley Hall is now drawing to a close. In a few days I will be boarding a plane back to the USA, and will be reunited with my wife, Rosemary, after our longest time away from one another in nearly forty years of marriage. One of the things that these fourteen weeks apart has re-emphasized to me again is that I am not constitutionally suited to bachelordom and the single life. As Scripture says, "It is not good for man to be alone..." I say "Amen" to that!
What has been interesting, and it came up in a conversation this morning, is how I am perceived by the students and my colleagues here. In the USA I am very obviously English, but here folks are not sure of that at all, and over breakfast with the Principal, an American, and a Canadian student, it became obvious that in this community I am perceived to be an American. That will probably make some of my American friends chuckle, but that's the way it is in perfidious Albion.
This very much came out yesterday at a trustees meeting of the seminary. I will not bore you with the details, but apparently from the way I presented my report, and from a slap across the wrist that I received from one of the bishops, I had forgotten in such situations how to be haved with necessary English reserve. I would hasten to add that I have no desire whatsoever to rediscover how to become English like that again, although perhaps I will have to be a little more careful. There is nothing wrong with a little brashness every now and again, especially if it keeps people thinking and discourages them from being stuffy.
It fascinates me what I have missed in these last few months. Obviously, I have missed Rosemary very, very much, but I have also missed my dog and cat, too. I am looking forward to having them all here in Cambridge with me. But almost as much, I have missed what can only be described as the priestly rhythm of life. It is now more than four months since I last presided over a Communion service, and nearly as long as that since I last preached the Word. These activities, the ministry of Word and Sacraments to which I was ordained in the late 1960s, have shaped the pattern of my life and suddenly they were taken away which left me floundering.
Here I have had no opportunity to exercise these tasks, merely to sit in the congregation and be ministered to. Perhaps that did me a world of good. Certainly, I have learned to squirm as parishioners do, and last Sunday if I had not been a visitor at the church where I was worshiping I would have been tempted to walk out because of the vacuous error that was being proclaimed angrily from the pulpit. Sitting as the recipient of ministry in a congregation is a good place to learn some fundamental lessons about humility and self-control!
I mentioned how empty life could seem without celebrating and preaching to our fellowship group on Monday morning. We were pondering and praying over the high points and low points of this first term of the academic year, and the Principal and I were the only two ordained members of the group. I wasn't fishing, but within minutes I was asked if I would be the celebrant of the end-of-term eucharist for the group, and that was a great joy. Then within 24 hours my phone rang and I was asked to preach and celebrate on a regular basis at St. Andrew's, the village church that I have been attending. Suddenly, after this enforced lay-off I was being given back something that I realize is much more precious to me than I had previously imagined.
So, I return home to Tennessee for two last weeks on Monday. I say home because I realize that home for me on earth is where Rosemary is. It is also my home because that is where one of my houses is, for our beautiful Tennessee homestead is like so many tens of thousands of others, trapped high and dry by the sub-prime crisis. There are nights when I have lain awake getting quite mad at the greed that has created the mortgage crisis that is now enveloping the markets here. I pray that we won't be paying two mortgages for too long.
What has been an interesting phenomenon is that as far as I can recall, I have not dreamed about once about England the whole time that I have been living back here. Instead, I have been dreaming about America -- perhaps that says something about where a large part of my soul is lodged.